On a muggy autumn afternoon, 400 of Miami Beach's most prominent names packed into a luxury Loews Hotel ballroom. As waiters hoisted trays of food, WSVN's Belkys Nerey took the stage and introduced a big-screen video. With a cinematic splash and to copious applause, billionaire Norman Braman, Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, and former commissioners Saul Gross and Victor Diaz lavished praise on the man of the hour: City Manager Jorge Gonzalez.
The date was October 21, 2010. It was the tenth anniversary of Gonzalez's reign. The back-slapping party marked the delirious high point of the slight, gray-haired manager's $273,000-per-year tenure. The low point came last week, when he stepped down in disgrace. The past 18 months have seen the Beach, Dade's glitziest locale, become its most corrupt.